Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Sunday Conversation with Behind the Sun

Powerful.  Beautiful.  Heavy and evocative.  Those were just some of the adjectives that ran through my mind the first (second, third . . . ) time I played the dynamite new album from Israel's Behind the Sun.  Mixing heavy, post-grunge rock with prog tendencies, some beautiful ambient guitar work and a love of jam bands, Behind the Sun are an intoxicating blend of many styles of rock that all seem to blend effortlessly into one grand vision.

Joining us today, are Aaron (guitar) and Gad (vocals) to enlighten us on all things Behind the Sun.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?
Gad: One epiphany moment would surely be the first time I heard The Beatles - Revolver on the old stereo, on vinyl, with the headphones on my head. And the following shock waves - The Doors, The Who, Zeppelin, Mad Season, Tool, Opeth and Pearl Jam

Aaron: I would have to say the first time I heard Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. I think I was 17. I was like "what the [expletive] is THIS??? What I am hearing here??? Is this even LEGAL??? It was like nothing else I'd ever heard.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

Aaron: I read an article once about Jimi Hendrix where his producer said when Jimi wrote the music first the songs were awesome and when he wrote the lyrics first it was incredibly hard after that to fit the ideas into a song format. I find that this is a very common problem. The music tends to suggest the lyrics but not the opposite. So I almost always start with a riff or two --- then I look for a clever line to put in the chorus and go from there. We wrote and rewrote the lyrics to our song "The Professionals" from the album 3 or 4 times, keeping only the chorus from draft to draft. As heavy or convoluted as some of the riffs may be, I'm a big believer in a catchy chorus and title.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

Gad:For me, getting to know a new word or a new phrase in English will sometimes spark an idea or better say - will be the missing piece in a puzzle that's been laying in my head.Other than that, when I find myself traveling across the country, mostly to remote and unfamiliar locations, I get inspiration from the sights, the people and the colors.

Aaron: Almost all of my ideas come from current events and relationships with people in my life. Although I am writing a song for the NEXT album about Brian Wilson which I think is going to be pretty crazy.

Your music seems to very deeply reflect the area where you live, can you talk to us about that?

Gad:Naturally, our music will reflect what we experience in this turmoiled region. We find it hard to write without what's weighting on our hearts and minds finding it's way into the music and the lyrics. we try to avoid dealing with the politics, not only because we all have different point of view on how the problems can be solved, but mostly because we're trying to end songs with a more optimistic message...

Aaron: I have to say there's a lot of pessimism and cynicism in the lyrics I wrote but that may be more of personal problem...

Gad: Another way for us to try and deal with the problems of this region, is to go back to the old stories of this great country and draw inspiration and guidance from past victories and failures.

Aaron: I can tell you that Gad's song "15th dawn" is about his reserve duty in the army and "Wishful Thinking" was inspired by the incredibly stupid leadership this country had at the time of the 2nd Lebanon War. After that it gets more abstract but the influence of the middle east is in there.

What is your musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

Gad:It depends. If it's a personal song, a song that deals with relationships, friends and life in general - It's more of a sharing-the-experince kind of thing - "here's what I feel/think about what's probably going on with your life too".When the song's more about failing rulers or anti-war, we're trying to pass a different message to whomever's listening, whether the listener's from Israel or not from around - let's learn some lessons learned with pain and suffer, let's do this differently.

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

Aaron: I usually bring in riffs for a verse and chorus to the band and then we figure out where we want to take it. Sometimes we change the tempo completely and go off in a different direction entirely. I'm a big believer in keeping the big themes simple in terms of music and lyrics because I think it has more of a powerful impact. That said, time changes can bring a bit of spice to the music and grab the listener and demand his or her attention for a particular section or transition. I also like odd time signatures because they can instill a unusual feeling in the audience, like the 5/4 time in the verses of "Still" for example. The beginning and end of "Wishful Thinking" also involve some unusual time signatures, which I think pushes the listener off balance a bit and gives a feeling of being on a lurching cruise ship. At least that's how I was feeling that day.

How's the Israeli music scene?

Gad:First of all, it's important to say we do have a very vibrant and various music scene here. Besides the local oriental Mediterranean music and pop music, there are 2 major scenes in the Israeli rock - metal and indie.

The Israeli metal scene is full of good bands, some are around for quite a while now (Salem, Orphaned Land and Almana Sh'chora/"Black Widow") and some are not active for that long but are doing quite well such as The Fading that won the 2009 Waken Festival battle of the bands and Betzefer (signed with Roadrunner records). Without a doubt, the biggest, most successful representative from this scene would be Orphaned Land. They are signed up with Century Media and they're playing the biggest metal festivals all over he world.

Israeli indie rock has it's fair share of successful bands/artists but it's a more .... indie success. Names such as Asaf Avidan & the Mojos, Rockfour, Eatliz and Izabo have all enjoyed some success in and outside of Israel.

As a result, we have 2 kind of festivals, metal or indie, all year around.

Aaron:  I love Israeli music (Infectzia, Barry Saharov, Arik Einstein, Shalom Hanoch, Amir Benayoun) but sadly I don't think it has any influence at all on what I'm writing. I didn't grow up on Israeli rock like the rest of the band. My mother was listening to the most commercial and banal Israeli pop when I was a child and I preferred Iron Maiden and Metallica.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Aaron: We had a bass player who was in another band at the same time and we both booked shows on the same day. He was supposed to play with his other band hours before our show but of course there was a delay and he only made it to the end of our set. But the show must go on so we borrowed a bass from the opening band and passed it around each song between myself and the other lead guitarist each song trading off who was playing the bass. It required some setlist and mental gymnastics. By some chance, we spotted our ex-bass player in the audience also and we also brought him on stage to play a song with us.
   There's that and also a near riot we played to at a poorly organized "co-existence" festival in Lod. The show was put on in a vacant lot in a run-down area of the city not far from the most notorious open air drug markets in the country. Some kids in the audience of thousands of impatient locals tried to rush the stage causing problems for the acts playing. Some other friendly people in the crowd lit dumpsters on fire to show their appreciation. The band before us had some not so wonderful things to say about the police and the country in general. So by the time it got around to our slot the police decided to shut down the show and disperse the crowd. Not sure we would've survived that one anyway so maybe its for the best. Needless to say we haven't been invited back to Lod.

What makes a great song?

Gad:A well balanced mixture of sweeping energetic music, a chorus filled with hooks and mind grabbing lyrics

Aaron:You should feel like you are somewhere else... someone else. you are telling a story (or reporting a story maybe). Even if its an instrumental. Stravinsky was telling a story too without words. (OK he had ballet dancers. We don't have that kind of a budget here.)

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

Aaron:The first song I ever wrote that got played by a band I was in was called 1984. I think I had just read the novel in class in 7th grade. Maybe it wasn't the most original song (or title, or concept) but it was very encouraging to play a song you wrote in front of an audience. Even if they had no idea what the hell the singer was singing.

Gad:So far I can only speak lyrics wise. The first song I wrote for the band (and made it in) was a song called "Sunflower". The song sort of portrayed my desire or my efforts to get the best out of close people when you know they have a lot more to offer, a much bigger potential. I was so proud when it got Aaron's care musically.

We played Sunflower live for a while but looking back at it, the song wasn't *that* good....I guess it was more of a stepping stone for us on our way to writing, arranging and executing better songs.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

Gad: I can't really put my finger on a specific song (again, I'm only speaking lyrics-wise). I'm proud of any of the songs I wrote that made it in and are still being played by the band, just as I'm proud of any of the songs we play in general, where I feel I contributed a little bit to it's progress with a vocal line or with a little part for an instrument.

One particular example which I still remember with a lot of joy is the time we played "Strong Wind", at the time still a "regular" song, in a rehearsal and I started "stretching" the lines, to ease some of the tension. It almost immediately resulted in the song turning into a jam and made it easier to turn it into a platform in which we could show our love for jam-rock (Dead, Phish, Gov't Mule, Allman Brothers)

Aaron: I'm very proud of my guitar solos in "Still" and "Strong Wind". For years I was the "rhythm guitar" player until my good friend Assaf pushed me in the direction of writing and playing leads. I'm still light years behind Assaf but I like to think I am at least moving in the right direction.

Who today, writes great songs? Why?

Gad: Music-wise, I can think of a few bands/artists that really caught my ear -
Jack White with the Racontures - Jack White, in general, is a very talented musician but his work with the Racontures really stands out in my mind. Though his feet stand firmly in the muddy banks of the delta blues, he somehow found the way to reach all the way to 2000's and with lots of catchy melodies and real passion in his singing and guitar playing - he won me over. The Racontures's 2nd album is really awesome.

Josh Homme - Whether with QOTSA, Kyuss, Desert Sessions or the latest outfit The Crooked Vultures - Homme always finds the twisted, interesting way to introduce you into his vision of how rock music should sound.

Mikael Åkerfeldt/Opeth - with memorizing melodies, vocal harmonies, beloved progressive parts and highly executed music in general were the first to open up a bridge for me to cross into heavy metal, heavier than I ever listened to before.

Lyrics wise I always thought Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder write beautiful songs. so far, minus Cornell's "Scream" material, they hardly ever failed to deliver the goods.

Aaron: Most of the music I listen to is from about 1950 (dawn of cool jazz and bebop) - 1980 (the end of the road for most progressive rock and 60s bands) but of the "new" music I'd agree with Gad about Opeth. I also like Hiromi (Japanese piano phenom). She just made an album with Stanley Clarke who I loved in Return to Forever. Strangely the "new" music I listen to is usually metal so I'd say Tool, Mastodon, Opeth ...

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Gad: Spin the black circle! :-)

Aaron: I understand the vinyl concept as a purer analog wave. On the other hand, why buy a vinyl record of an album which was recorded using ProTools and take it home and play it on your dinky record player which your Grandma threw out in 1965? I suspect that there's a huge nostalgia factor or a hipness factor there. On the other hand there is an advantage to playing the cd and not mp3 which is I tend to think the CD format encourages you to listen to the entire album in order as the artist intended. Nobody really uses the random function on a single cd player, do they?

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Gad:Where I live (Rehovot, about 20 km south of Tel Aviv) there aren't many record stores and only one store ("Panica") you can maybe lose youself in if you're into vinyls like me but in Tel Aviv you can for sure lose youself looking for goodies in the 3rd Ear store ("Ha'ozen Hashlishit").

Aaron: I'm very impressed by Ktzat Acheret ("a little different") in Tel Aviv on Frishman St and also the Metal Shop on the same street a few doors down. 3rd Ear is great too.

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

Gad:Don't ever put aside your instrument/iPod/mp3 player/cd player/record player. Let music blow your mind and take you places. Always look for the next band/artist that will excite you and support them.

Aaron: Don't be afraid to edit and revise your music, lyrics, and yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment